Dr David Baker BSc PhD

Reader in Parasite Molecular Biology

David Baker's Background

David completed his PhD in 1988 at the University of Hull on the molecular biology of the intestinal parasite Giardia lamblia. He then moved to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to work with Prof. Geoff Targett on the sexual stages of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Current research is focused on investigating signal transduction pathways that regulate development of the most serious human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

David Baker's Affiliation

David Baker's Teaching

I am involved in various aspects of teaching the MSc in Molecular Biology of Infectious Diseases (MBID) and am currently the Deputy Chair of the Board of Examiners for this degree course.

I am currently the Research Degrees Director for the Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases (since April 2008). In this capacity I play an active role in recruitment and monitoring the progress of our ~150 research degree students. The post also involves reviewing regulations and procedures relating to our research degree programmes at a faculty and institutional level.

David Baker's Research

David Baker’s research group uses biochemical and genetic approaches to study the cyclic nucleotide signal transduction pathways of malaria parasites. The cyclic nucleotides cAMP and cGMP perform a whole spectrum of cellular functions in diverse organisms. Earlier work from other laboratories suggested that both of these second messenger molecules may play roles in malaria parasite differentiation. Our studies have focused on the cyclase enzymes that synthesise cyclic nucleotides, the phosphodiesterases that degrade them, but also on the protein kinase that is activated by cGMP (PKG). We have found that in Plasmodium falciparum cGMP and PKG play an essential role in triggering the formation (gametogenesis) of mature sexual parasite forms which are required to transmit disease to the mosquito vector. As part of a collaboration we also showed that this pathway is important for the development of the ookinete form of P. berghei within the mosquito. It is now becoming clear that cGMP signalling and the PKG enzyme are vital for multiple parasite stages, because using specific PKG inhibitors in conjunction with inhibitor-insensitive transgenic parasites we have demonstrated that asexual blood stage schizogony cannot progress if this kinase is blocked. Recently, with others we have shown that PKG functions upstream of a protease cascade and a calcium-dependent protein kinase (CDPK5) that are also required for asexual blood stage schizont rupture and merozoite egress.  Since drug resistance is a huge problem, we are investigating whether cyclic nucleotide signalling pathways could be exploited in the development of novel antimalarial drugs.

David became an Affiliated member of the EVIMalaR European Network of Excellence (www.evimalar.org) in 2010.

 

 

Research areas

  • Drug discovery and development
  • Parasites
  • Protozoa

Disciplines

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell biology
  • Genomics
  • Molecular biology
  • Parasitology

Disease and Health Conditions

  • Infectious disease
  • Malaria

Other interests

  • Cell Signalling
  • Gametocytes
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